Lives of Style: Sallie Huntting 

You can spot that "model" smile a mile away. All-knowing, taking in everything around her, yet warmer than today’s crop of glassy-eyed runway walkers. Her face lights up. She catches you in her aura. There’s a twinkle. And you know, just as if she reached out and put a convivial arm around your shoulder, that you’re in the presence of a friend. Sallie Huntting, described by those who know her as "so fabulous, a lovely lady," former model, special events producer, now executive vice president of public relations at the Academy of Art University, is a woman who keeps the sunshine pouring into her life by reaching out to others.

This San Francisco-born, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Saratoga, Calif.-bred beautiful woman of taste, has a largesse, a finesse and a "politesse" that resonate and permeate everything she does. She’s just been nominated by the governor to the California Arts Project.

Daughter of an IBM engineering pioneer, Sallie attended Los Gatos High School, where she met her husband, Leon, a lawyer and president of Huntting Financial Services, former president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers, in drama class. It seems that Leon and other members of the school’s football team had opted for an easy elective, and Leon, glimpsing the then-ponytailed Sallie, offered her a seat in front of him in class, pulled the aforementioned ponytail, then asked to perform a scene with her. The rest, they say, is dramatic history. Leon and Sallie did a play together and have been inseparable ever since.

Married 43 years, she says, "He’s my best friend. We’ve grown together in the same direction. He’s interesting." The two relocated from the South Bay to San Francisco to Sausalito and settled in a cosseted, hillside abode perched over the Bay. "I’m a nester. I love my home. I love it here, on the deck, in the morning, with my coffee and my husband and Mister Antony (a Siamese — one of two family cats. The other is a stray feral, Fluffy)."

Sallie attended Santa Clara University, graduated with a degree from Pacific Western University, modeled for Lilli Ann, then plunged into fashion events and productions, including work for the 49ers and Koret of California. She taught at the Academy of Art University when university president Dr. Elisa Stephens asked her to work for her in public relations. Sallie said, "Let’s give it six months and see how it works." That was 15 years ago.

Along the way, Sallie has chaired 35 fundraisers for cultural and philanthropic organizations in the Bay Area, from the 2003 Opera Ball, with Co-Chairwoman Kathie MacNaughton, to events for the Arthritis Foundation, the Opera Gown Show, ARCS (Achievement Rewards College Scientists), Junior League Fashion Shows and the latest, with Co-Chairwoman and Junior League President Judy Jorgensen, on March 8, for the International Museum of Women, a virtual museum that allows women to collaborate on projects around the world. The museum boasted 650 attendees for its first major function.

Sallie’s home in Sausalito is attuned to the light, the ambiance overlooking the Bay (facing San Francisco and Tiburon) and the indoor-outdoor flow of energy and greenery from the deck, populated with redolent and charismatic flora. The home, with white walls and soft-cushion seating, has a tropical air, with a multiplicity of orchids ensconced in corners, overlaying the formality of antique Chinese cabinets, French hand-painted breakfront and various Asian pieces. Brightly colored seascapes and abstracts from notable San Francisco and Marin artists such as Carolyn Myer, Cucaro, hang on the walls, with a drawing of Sallie at the Opera Ball by Gladys Perint Palmer in piquant harmony.

Sallie, who escaped death three times ("once as a child I was run over;" "as a teen our house exploded and I had burns over 60 percent of my body;" and as a young woman "in a car accident where my back was broken, then soldered together again,") is a woman who counts life’s blessings.

The lesson for those who know Sallie is that she, in fact, is one of them.

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